Monday, April 24, 2006

Letter from the school

I have time for only a short post, although many posts are rolling around in my head. We got a letter from the school on Saturday. I dread these letters and did not open it, but laid it beside my husband's plate.

Now my sons are great kids. They are happy, curious, social and kind-hearted. They have avoided the major pitfalls of teenagers, such as drinking, drugs, smoking, sex. But they have some learning deficits that qualify them for IEPS and resource help. Their progress has been remarkable, but they still have to work harder than other kids and that's becoming a burden as their interest grows in girls, sports, music, cars, and other testosterone-laden stuff that I don't quite understand. So I dread letters from the school, as they usually are notices of academic shortfalls.

Steve opened the letter at dinner and both boys were holding their breath. He turned to Ron and addressed him in a serious voice. Ron gulps. I gulp. Rick breathes a sigh of relief. And then he says how proud he is of him for working so hard because the teacher wrote to tell us he had an A+ in 10th grade English at mid-term. This is a minor miracle as English is the area of Ron's major deficit. Ron beamed. I cried. Rick even beamed for his brother.

They are studying Julius Caesar and Of Mice and Men. Ron loves to read and enjoyed both pieces of literature. Part of the grade was memorizing and presenting Mark Antony's speech to the class. He struggles more with writing (composition, spelling and grammar) which is related to expressive language.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Pretty Little Brother Who Died in San Francisco

Max was my paternal grandmother's younger brother, the subject of her poem when she was 11.
My little brother is very bad
He bothers me all day
The only time that I have peace
Is when he is away

My little brother is full of tricks
As full as he can be
I am quite sure you could not think
Of the tricks he plays on me.

My little brother has blue eyes
As merry as can be
If you would hunt a year you would not find
A prettier boy than he

And yet although you'll think it strange
And though he is a bother
I really would not like to change
My pretty little brother.
I have the envelope that Max sent to his mother (my great-grandmother) from San Francisco postmarked October 9, 1901. It proves my grandmother was right about her little brother - he was full of tricks and merry.
Please, Mr. Postman put this in your bag,
Make straight for South Avenue, and do not lag;
Deliver it into Mrs. Bennett's own hands,
At Medina, N.Y., near the old baseball stands.
Today, 100 years after the San Francisco earthquake, I remember my great uncle, who died of diphtheria, probably a result of the crowded conditions in the aftermath of the quake. His physician wrote this to Max's mother.

Mrs. Katherine Hilliard Young

My Dear Madam:-
I have just returned from a month's vacation in Mexico and find your letter of Jan. 10 at hand.

It pleases me greatly to hear from you and gives me great pleasure to be able to write you about Max.

I had known Max for about four years and his death was a very hard blow to me. I had always admired him for his moral character while he was living out here so far away from home influences. It shows what a good mother he must have had to have built such a fine life for himself at such a great distance. I know of no bad habits that he had contracted and he was always a light hearted boy with a very frank manner which had won him a host of friends.

When he was taken sick and during his last illness it was hard work to keep him in bed; he would insist that he was not sick enough to be in bed and that he needed exercise and so would get up and walk around the hall during the night while the rest were asleep. I do not believe that this had any influence whatever upon his death but I only speak of it so you can recall how little he considered himself while sick. He did not want to make trouble for anybody and felt as if he had been babied when his food was brought to him in his room.

That he died goes to show me more clearly than ever how much medical science falls short of actual results, he being the only case of diphtheria that I remember of ever having lost. Apparently he was doing well up to the time he was taken with paralysis of the heart. His nurse, Miss Kent, did do all that could be done for him at that time. She gave him stimulants hypodermic but he was already beyond medical aid. I could not have done any more if I had been right there. As much as I feel that Max should have lived I do not see even now what more could have been done for him. His system was so charged with toxines that his weak heart was unable to stand it.

I would be very glad to hear from you at any time and if I can be of any service to you in any way do not fail to write me.

Yours very truly,

Dr. William Tappan Lum

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Mystery solved. This beautiful flower has been the first to bloom in our woods and for 15 years I've been trying to ID it. It is not in any of my wildflower books. Thanks to Ed, the site's naturalist, I now know this is Purple Cress. Why Purple? The underside of the basal leaves are a deep purple. Posted by Picasa

I know these as trout lilies, but Gene Stratton-Porter called them adder's tongue. Another name is dog-toothed violet. Fish, snakes and dogs in the woods? Erythronium americanum Posted by Picasa

The hepatica is blooming. Posted by Picasa

This Cornelian Cherry (which is really a dogwood - Cornus mas) was planted in 1915 behind the Garden Shed at the site. Posted by Picasa

Two invasive plants with which I much too familiar. And they have such innocent common names: Star of Bethlehem and Garlic Mustard. Posted by Picasa

It's been a good spring for forsythia. Two years ago I planted cuttings from this plant along our 300+ foot frontage on the road. Last year, they were twigs. This year, they are golden. As you can tell from this picture, I'm in the natural pruning school. Remove only the older branches at ground level to encourage its natural graceful habit. Unfortunately, I see too many forsythia pruned into little boxes and mushrooms, which results in diminished flowering. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Spring Break

This week I spent spring break with three teenagers and my baby brother by going to Indianapolis to see Singing in the Rain at a dinner theater. Andrea, my 23 year old niece who lives in Indy, joined us for a great show and so-so food. (My opinion on the food, not my sons' opinion.) We expanded the trip to three days and two nights and enjoyed the city life. The last time I went on a spring break trip with my brother, his daughter and my sons, we went rappelling and spelunking. These kids embrace life, whether in the wilderness or city.

We spent a cold rainy day at the zoo, so I spent a lot of time in the acquarium. I loved this six inch yellow dragon fish. The ten foot walrus was Ron's favorite. The dolphins were obeying Rick's hand signals which he learned from watching the dolphin show. Posted by Picasa

Misty morning in Indy Posted by Picasa

Rick waiting in the cafe for breakfast. It rained all day Thursday but that didn't stop us. Posted by Picasa

My niece, son and brother enjoying the White Water Canal just outside our hotel. As he ate breakfast on the terrace, my other son pretended to be in Venice. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Spring Driving

This afternoon, in preparation for a small trip I'm taking with the boys, my brother and his teenage daughter, I suggested that the boys clean out the Suburban. Just as they started to moan about this unreasonable request, I added that they could then drive it down to the car wash. "By ourselves??" While one son has his operators license, we have severely limited his driving alone until he has more experience. Yes we are mean parents but we also remember being 16 years old.

So on this warm sunny spring day, they washed the car and returned the videos. One son walked in the house with a huge grin, experiencing the ecstasy of spring, and seemed surprised when I said, "So you had the radio on very loud and the windows open."

The other son came in and asked me for a saw so he could help an older neighbor cut up a tree that fell over in the windstorm several days ago. No, it was not the chain saw, but the pruning saw to remove the branches. He walked home whistling and asked if he could load the wood on our truck to take to our camp. I'm so proud of him and so glad some of the selfless service to others that my husband has modeled for years has stuck.

Monday, April 03, 2006

When life is not a game...

Steve and I needed a colander to sift dried corn (don't ask), and as we were leaving for the discount store, one son said, "Have a nice date, Mom and Dad." He thinks whenever we do something without him, it's a date, and perhaps it is as time alone as a couple is always a pleasure.

We ended up buying some groceries and other stuff since it is common knowledge you can't go to Meijers without spending $100 minimum. The woman in front of us in the check-out lane was taking a long time so we gradually fell into a little game of categorizing our purchases as we were unloading our cart. You know, the groceries in one place, the garden stuff in another, etc. And then we got caught up in the game. With much earnestness we started to rearrange things. "No, the eggs must be next to the cheese because I'm making omelets." We fed off each other and became very intense about this. And then Steve burst into laughter because the woman in front of us kept glancing at us with worried looks.

That was that. Just some silliness, nothing unusual for us.

Then I went to the grocery store a few days later and the bag boy was playing our game, except it wasn't a game to him. It was very sad. OCD is not a game. It is a crippling disease.

This bee seemed to be in some type of ecstasy, rolling around inside the crocus. Posted by Picasa

The bees were even buzzing. Posted by Picasa

My garden and lawn exploded with crocus last week. Posted by Picasa